Who can believe the year is half over?! What in the world is happening? Here’s my June QuickLit roundup of 17 titles, which you can skim through at your leisure. I’m also including an update on my 2018 reading goals at the end of the post!
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
I loved that this romance combined the traditional tropes with the added white/black romance that we so often miss. And that it wasn’t just a side-detail in the story, but an actual conversation piece between the protagonists and their friends. Alexa and Drew make for a very fun meet-cute couple, and I’d definitely recommend this one as a great story as well as a bit of a steamy read.
A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson
Big and Mosey and Liza are all part of the same family of women. Big (Liza’s mom) had her super young, and Liza had her daughter (Mosey) super young as well. That means grandma, Big, is only about 40ish with a teenage granddaughter. Liza suffered a stroke recently and is mostly non-verbal. The story starts with an old tree in the front yard being removed, and a small baby-sized skeleton being discovered by the tree. The story unfolds via all three women’s viewpoints as they piece together their history and the mystery behind this tiny body. Jackson does a great job putting the story together, as always, revealing it slowly without the reader feeling like she’s just getting dragged along.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Oh, this sweet and classic story is darling in every way. I felt sure that I had read it when I was younger, but if so, I had forgotten almost all of it and only remembered the film. The text, as expected, is so much richer and fuller than expected.
This may be a book for children, but for me it will be a book for every spring. It is perfection.
Re-read in 2018 using the Serial App. It was nice to slow down and savor it. So enchanting.
The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo
A collection of fairy tales in short story format, retold in ways you didn’t imagine. Bardugo pulls together familiar elements to make something totally new. You’re sitting there reading, thinking that you know how this story goes or how it will end, but you’ll nearly always be wrong. This collection is just delightful, and highly recommended.
The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs
Part of my post getting-to-see-Hamilton reading binge, this fictionalized retelling paired with the musical and the Chernow biography really helped bring Hamilton to life for me! Cobbs is a historian by trade, so much of the novel is based on actual fact, while it gets novelized through the day-to-day details that we can guess at, but are impossible to know for sure. I thought she did a wonderful job weaving his story together in a totally readable way, and would definitely recommend this one as a great option for people who want more Hamilton in their lives but aren’t ready to commit to the giant Chernow tome. 🙂
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
This is SO worth diving into for Hamilton fans and history fans and biography fans. There are, of course, long periods of history that hold very little interest for those of us that aren’t total nerds about it, but this biography condenses even the driest parts into easily-digestible pieces that leave you wanting more. These 800+ pages (32 hours audio) just flew by, in that I was totally okay with Hamilton taking over my life for a week. It’s so easy to get sucked into his story and so easy to understand why Miranda read this and decided it was time for a Hamilton-inspired fever to sweep the nation.
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy
The Perfect Mother kind of feels like a story you’ve already read before, I’ll bet. A mommy group decides it’s FINALLY time for a night out on the town, and while they are out one of the mommies has their baby abducted from her home while the sitter sleeps on the couch. It’s horrifying and traumatizing, as a mommy expecting a baby, especially (makes me even more thankful to have a multi-year relationship with a sitter we really trust!). Molloy builds the chapters and the story in a predictable way, but then there’s a twist you (or at least, I) didn’t expect, which really is the part that makes this book worth it. Either way though, it’s a quick read because it keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what happened.
Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines
This is basically a journal of Haines first 90 days of sobriety, and he doesn’t promise it’ll be pretty or get all wrapped up in a bow or even have a plot. But it does have an overarching theme as Seth struggles with his faith, his ability to trust in a God that would allow his baby boy to be so sickly, his desire to drown the fear and anxiety with alcohol. There are some deep faith questions asked and (sort of) answered in this book. It is so worth a read. I’m sad that I let it languish on my Kindle for so long, but glad I finally picked it up for a summer reading challenge!
The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
I spent entirely too much time blushing in front of my kids as The Kiss Quotient played through my earbuds today and yesterday. I don’t usually “do” romance, but I loved the premise of this one and it did NOT disappoint!
Stella is a brilliant Econometrician (is that even a thing? It’s definitely a job I’ve never heard of!) who has Asperger’s. Her mom is pushing for marriage and grandkids, but dating and sex are *awkward* on many levels. She hires an escort, Michael, to essentially show her the ropes.
Even if it was a bit steamier than I usually reach for, I’m going to heartily recommend this one as a summer heartthrob. Maybe don’t buddy read it with your… Mom though (insert awkward giggling here).
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Buddy read with a bunch of book club friends. Plum is an overweight woman who works for a fashion magazine answering emails. She is scheduled for an extreme weight loss surgery in just a few weeks and dreaming of her post-fat body, when everything gets turned upside-down. First, she is approached by Leda, who passed along a copy of the book Dietland, an expose on the empire created by a woman named Varina, who pioneered the “skinny woman bursts through a picture of her fat self” movement. The situation spirals from there, as Plum is taken under the wing of Varina’s daughter and encouraged to re-think her surgery plans. All this is happening while a female revolution is taking place, led by an elusive and generic “Jennifer”. The whole book is just a bit crazy overall but gives you so much to think about with regard to body image, fat-shaming, diet culture, and the feminist movement.
Calypso by David Sedaris
He’s back and better than ever! I was SO glad to power through this collection of stories while laughing so hard I wiped tears from my eyes. Definitely recommended on audio (one story was recorded at a show I WAS AT! So that was fun), as Sedaris’ voice really brings his words to life! Even having heard some of these stories before when he read them aloud the last time I saw them, I just couldn’t get enough. The one about road rage just had me dying all over again. And the Fitbit encouragement to move made my side hurt. Just read it, really. It’s worth your time and your giggles, I promise.
Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes
This story feels unbelievable at times. Like, can this all have really happened? But Cinelle Barnes admits right at the beginning that, like most memoirs, some characters may have been combined and some details may have been changed, and childhood memory isn’t always the most reliable, but this is a real memoir with real stories about her childhood in the Phillippines. And it doesn’t disappoint in terms of drama, suspense, and even horror at the atrocities she faced growing up in a crumbling mansion as her parents fell from riches to despair. I found this read totally compelling, and wasn’t really ready to let it go at the end.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Although this seems right up my alley, I just could not get myself into the story. I mostly felt like I just wanted everything to turn out right sooner rather than later for Janie, our protagonist, and then be done. Instead, even though it’s not that long of a book, it felt like she just couldn’t catch a break and I got a bit annoyed instead of developing compassion for her life and circumstances. Bummer, because it’s a classic and I wanted to love it!
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Overall, I found this to be a solid psychological thriller from Mary Kubica, and definitely got sucked into the story. She weaves it together in a masterful way, which leaves you guessing from one minute to the next how it all comes together, and when the sh*t is going to hit the fan in every which way. Heidi sees Willow on the train platform a few days in a row, notices she has a baby with her and is bleeding-heart enough to invite her into her home. Her husband doesn’t know what to think; her teenage daughter is standoffish and defensive, per usual; but Heidi is just thrilled to have a baby in the house again. We know from the outset that something weird is going to happen or has happened, but it takes 300 pages to really start piecing it together.
The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie
My first purchase of 2018 for myself! I decided to get around my book-buying ban by calling this a “homeschool resource” because I was assured that I’d be referring to it again and again, so it’s more like a reference book. I imagine my enablers will be happy to know that they are correct. Sarah Mackenzie’s wisdom from her podcast on this topic has been artfully distilled down into this book, to the tune of me wanting to buy 10 more copies so I just have them on hand for everyone I know. Especially the people who ask me about how I got my own kiddos so addicted to reading and how they want to change the reading culture in their own homes but don’t know how. (What? You don’t have these conversations??). Sarah has all kinds of knowledge as to how to incorporate reading, how to get your kids to fall in love with reading, what to do with audiobooks or late readers, why it’s important to keep reading aloud even to your teens, what to do with fidgety listeners, and even how to ask good questions about the books your kids are reading in order to create a book club culture in your home. Finally, book lists at the end (20 titles for each of 4 age ranges) will enable you to start building your personal collection in a meaningful and intentional way. The whole thing is just gold.
Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Ramona Blue is our title character in this YA novel from Julie Murphy. I’ve loved her other books, so I may have gone into this one with slightly over-elevated hopes, which is why it didn’t get another 5 star rating from me. But, overall it’s a solid story about a teenage girl about to graduate from High School in a small town, where she is one of only a handful of gay teens in town. Her childhood summer friend moves to town for his senior year and they basically meet up to mourn their summer girlfriends gone awry. You see where this is going, right? Yeah, so did I. But it’s still a cute story, and a plenty fun “Pride Month Read”.
I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda
Although I spent a solid 30% of this book being super annoyed with middle-grade and teenage Caitlin ( I get it, you’re a typical American, self-obsessed teenager), I definitely understand why it was put together the way it was. It really takes the time to show us that this pen pal project wasn’t about stoking a fire that already existed for a third-world country and its inhabitants. It really did change the lives of both of these young people for the better. I dare you to try to read or listen to this exchange (audio was fantastic) without crying by the end.
2018 Reading Goals Check-In:
Goal: Read 200 books in 2018
Status: I had finished 125 before July 1st. That means I’m ahead on my goal, but I’m also due with baby #4 ANY DAY NOW, so we’ll see how that affects the rest of the year!
Goal: Read enough from your shelves that they all fit on one shelf
Status: I can fit all my physical TBR books on one shelf in our bedroom! Yay! According to Goodreads, I have finished 61 books from my shelves this year, which is almost half. I’m happy with that progress!
Goal: No buying any new books during 2018
Status: As noted above, I did purchase a book for myself this year. So, just the one. And I justified it as a “homeschool resource”. It’s not a novel! I do have a number of favorites already from the year that are going on my “to buy in 2019” list!
Goal: Read longer books than last year
Status: Last year, I felt like I gravitated toward shorter books sometimes in order to get my “books read” number up higher. I ended the year with an average pages/book stat of 304. Currently, my average pages/book for 2018 is at 333 pages, so I’m doing well on this. I’m also SLOWLY working through a couple tomes that should push this up even higher, so I’m happy with this progress!